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The dissension between Patriarch Ignatius of Constantinople and the Caesar Bardas, the uncle of the youthful Emperor [[Michael III]], concerning Bardas' illicit relationship with his daughter-in-law and other questionable moral practices, led to Photius' promotion. Ignatius was arrested and exiled to the island of Terebinthos in 858, where he submitted his resignation. Photius, a [[laity|layperson]], was inducted into the [[priest]]hood and made a [[bishop]] within six days and then installed as patriarch. He resisted this appointment, as he wished for a more contemplative life. He was the most distinguished scholar at that time and was seen as being above suspicion because he was strongly opposed to the iconoclast party, which had caused his parents' death.
Several months after his exile, a few Ignatius' supporters came together in the Church of Saint Irene and plotted to restore Ignatius to the patriarchate. They made an appeal to Pope Nicholas trying to discrediting his rival
Ignatius' appointment. This was signed by only six metropolitans and fifteen bishops. There were several [[monk]]s in this camp that set out for Rome, even though Ignatius had voluntarily resigned. They were received by [[Pope Nicholas I]], who was eager to assert his power over the Eastern church. Pope Nicholas had previously been successful in bringing the Western church under his absolute control, and he now sought the same power over the East.
Pope Nicholas felt that the appointment needed the consent of Rome and objected to the fact that Photius was a layperson even though there was precedence for this in both the Western and Eastern churches. He also demanded that the Byzantines give back to Rome the territories of Calabria and Sicily.